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Drought Vulnerability Assessment to Inform Grazing Practices on Rangelands of Southeastern Colorado’s Major Land Resource Area 69

Amber Wyndham, Emile Elias, Joel Brown, Michael Wilson, and Albert Rango
Increased climate variability, including more frequent and intense drought, is projected for the southwestern region of the United States. Increased temperatures and reduced precipitation lower soil water availability, resulting in decreased plant productivity and altering species composition, which may affect forage quality and quantity. Reduced forage quality and increased heat stress attributable to warmer temperatures could lead to decreased livestock performance in this system, which is extensively used for livestock grazing. Mitigating the effects of increasing drought is critical to social and ecological stability in the region. Reduced stocking rates, change in livestock breeds and/or grazing practices are general recommendations that could be implemented to cope with increased climatic stress. Ecological Sites and their associated state–and-transition models (STMs) are tools to help land managers implement and evaluate responses to disturbances. The projected change in climate will vary depending upon geographic location. Vulnerability assessments and adaptation strategies are needed at the local level to inform local management decisions and help ameliorate the effects of climate change on rangelands. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Southwest Climate Hub and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked together to produce this drought vulnerability assessment at the Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) level, based on ecological sites and state-and-transition models that will help landowners and government agencies to identify and develop adaptation options for drought on rangelands. The assessment illustrates how site-specific information can be used to help minimize the effects of drought on rangelands and support informed decision-making for the selection of management adaptations within MLRA 69.
1 online resource (37 pages)
USDA Southwest Climate Hub
USDA publications
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